Sunday, 23 February 2014

Iceland Gull, Stone Barges - Rainham

With news of one, possibly two Iceland Gulls having been seen along the Thames in recent weeks, I headed out early to the Stone Barges at Rainham, were only the day before one of these birds was seen standing on the metal gantry which protrudes into the Thames - a much favoured roost site for many of the gulls which frequent Rainham landfill site. Upon arrival I bumped into Mr Croft and his young protege Josh who had had the same idea.

On a cracking spring like morning we didn't have to wait long until a sizable white-winger came into view as it flew up river and then landed on the metal gantry, with the sun rising low in the sky behind us this mostly bleached white 1st winter/2nd calendar Iceland Gull easily stood out amongst the other larids and for the next twenty minutes we all enjoyed great views of this high-artic winter visitor, before it took flight and headed back down river.

Rainham, Stone barges,

Rainham, Stone Barges

Rainham, Stone barges

Rainham, Stone barges

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Buzzard, common - and I'm glad they are.

The sun finally put in an all too welcome appearance on Sunday afternoon, bringing out my first sightings this year of bumblebee and small tortoiseshell butterfly. I also enjoyed cracking views of this Common Buzzard as it drifted and circled over the lake at Connaught Water in Epping Forest. To think, a little over a decade ago these large raptors were quite a rare sight in eastern parts of the UK, after being on the end of many years of persecution. I remember having to drive west down the M4 to have any chance of seeing one, but now you can regularly pick out one or two birds as you drive across most parts of the UK, and I can usually guarantee seeing the odd bird casually drift high over my garden during the summer months on the back of a thermal - how good it is to see these birds enjoying a remarkable change in fortunes.

The controversy last year regarding the governments proposals to license the destruction of Common Buzzard nests to protect Pheasant shooting estates (and then the well publicised government u-turn in response to public concern) - highlighted just how much passion there is in the UK to preserve our native birds and wildlife, and I for one, hope this trend continues and Buzzards remain a common sight in our skies for many years to come.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

A minor milestone

Well here it is…my 100th blog post.

If you had clicked onto this blog hoping to see some draw dropping images of maybe a wintering yank Warbler, colourful Blue-tail or even a dodgy Pond Heron then I'm afraid you're reading the wrong blog! The best I can offer you for my century of posts is an adult Mediterranean Gull - all the same, it is a rather smart looking bird and my 4th on Wanstead Flats in as many months.

It wasn't a surprise when Mr Croft came up with the goods midweek, with the ever increasing mass of Gulls congregating on the Flats - the law of averages said there had to be a Med Gull out there somewhere.

As I battled against the wind on Saturday morning, I was pleased to see Dan had already saved me some time and effort by already finding the bird again, as crossing the exposed Flats in this freakishly windy weather was tough going - at times I struggled to stand and hold up my bins, and as for trying to actually photograph the bird (even with the aid of an image-stabilising lens) eating an ice-cream whilst sky-diving might have been a bit easier! So I'm actually pleasantly surprised with the resulting images considering the weather conditions.





But, after yet another winter storm had blown through, I couldn't help but think, seeing another Med Gull was ok but I left feeling a little bit robbed, as the thought of seeing a slightly rarer inland Larid in the form of maybe a Kittiwake or Little Gull off the back of this latest storm would have been a far greater patch reward and a more befitting way to round of my 100th post - oh well, maybe I'll come up trumps when I hit the double-century.

Sunday, 9 February 2014


Another uneventful visit to Wanstead Flats - spring can't come soon enough!

I gave up exploring a windswept Flats and instead spent a couple of hours sifting through the large number of gulls, which are currently making the most of the lack of football being played on the waterlogged pitches. I tried my hardest to pull a Med or even a Yellow-legged Gull out the bag, but nothing! The best I could muster was a couple of colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls and even those two birds were ringed just down the road by the North Thames Gull Group - hardly noteworthy.

Colour-ring, Gulls, ringing
Yellow ring - 2ALP
Colour-ring, Gulls, ringing
Yellow ring - 2ASN
I have a small blogging milestone coming up - this scintillating blogpost was my 99th.

So after serving up a couple of somewhat underwhelming posts recently (garden birds, condiments and BHG's) lets hope my 100th post is a little more enthralling. I only have myself to blame for the lack of decent images and writing material - I really need to get out further a field a bit more (there's always a good excuse at the moment not to). At least I know I have a couple of quality trips planned later in the year - with a spring visit to the Isle of Skye and then my first autumn visit to Shetland, which hopefully (favourable wind-direction and weather), should give me plenty of material to blog about..!

Friday, 7 February 2014

What's a cowboys favourite relish?

Well...Cowboy Jam of course!

I couldn't resist posting a blog about this little pot of goodness, especially as the year has started so slow in regards to birds and bird news for me - due in part to starting a new job and the incessant weather of course.

So when Mrs B returned from a night out with the girlies to one of our favourite local restaurants Eat 17 (if you've not been, it's well worth a visit) with a small jar of east London's most delicious relish - Bacon Jam, but now with a twist - I was made up! This little piece of heaven has been made even more hip and is now available as BBQ flavoured 'Cowboy Jam' - that's a big yeehaa from me!

Eat 17, Walthamstow,

And as the label says "Saddle up and dig in, partner"- don't you worry I will, especially as the weekend forecast is for more wet and windy weather, giving me a great excuse to have a lay-in. When I eventually rise from my pit - I'll put on a fresh pot of coffee, toast some bread, butter and spread a thick layer of the Cowboy Jam all over, stack a couple of grilled sausages on top, add on a soft fried egg and then lightly salt and devour as the runny yolk drips between the sausages and onto the jammy toast - delicious.

Right I'm having an early night...